What led to the rise of dictatorship after World War I?

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reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many causes exist that led to the rise of dictatorships after WWI. After the war, Russia, Italy, and Germany found themselves in situations that allowed dictators to rise to power. The countries were all in extreme situations, both economically and politically, that became a fertile ground for future dictators to seize control. As well, people naturally desire order, and after WWI, much of Europe was still in chaos. The dictators promised social order even though they destroyed many peoples' lives and took away personal freedom.

In Russia, Stalin used the political upheaval after the Russian Civil War to win favor under Lenin and then become absolute dictator with a totalitarian form of government. His father was a shoemaker who died a vagrant, yet Stalin's ambition spurred him on in politics. Stalin convinced the people that the State had total control over them, and he ruled by terror from 1929-1953.

In Italy, Mussolini, called, Il Duce (The Leader), rose to power creating a Fascist regime. He was the son of a humble blacksmith, and he rose to power by organizing unemployed war veterans, called Black Shirts, to terrorize his political opponents. He controlled the media and convinced the people he was truly a perfect leader from 1922-1943.

Lastly, Hitler rose to power after Germany faced many sanctions after WWI, including Article 231, the "War Guilt Clause" in the Treaty of Versailles, forcing Germany to pay reparations for the war. His father had been a state worker, yet Hitler's ambition was limitless. He found the period of unrest in Germany to be a perfect time to rise to power, using propaganda to establish the Nazi Party and an absolute dictatorship from 1933-1945.

Three leaders rose to absolute power creating dictatorships that would definitely influence history using political, economic, and social unrest as their stepping stones.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, we must acknowledge that it is not always possible to know what causes changes in society and governmental sytems to occur.  We can only speculate using as much information as we have.  The general consensus is that dictatorships tend to arise in times of stress in a country.  When a country is in crisis, it is more likely to be willing to accept a dictatorship.  World War I and the events of the ensuing years helped to bring about crises in a variety of countries, leading to the rise of dictatorships.

The two most brutal and egregious dictatorships in Europe after World War I (or perhaps in any place and time) were Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.  Both arguably came about because of stresses related to WWI.  The Soviet Union’s dictatorship was formed directly by WWI.  The war went so badly for Russia that Russians overthrew their ruler and eventually installed a communist system.  They were willing to accept a dictator because their country was in chaos due to the failure of the previous government in WWI.  Germany accepted Nazi dictatorship because of the aftermath of WWI.  Germans were very unhappy with the outcome of WWI.  They felt unjustly punished by the Treaty of Versailles.  Their economy, by 1933, was devastated by reparations that they were forced to pay and by the Great Depression.  This crisis led them to accept dictatorship.

Thus, it was crises arising from WWI that are generally blamed for the rise of dictatorship in the years following the war.